In a surprise finish, the Atlantic 10 Championship comes down to No. 4 St. Bonaventure and No. 6 Saint Louis, with the two programs vying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. ET inside the Barclays Center Sunday. Jason Logan sizes up this matchup, breaks down the college basketball betting odds, and gives his best bets for the A-10 tournament final.
SAINT LOUIS BILLIKENS VS ST. BONAVENTURE BONNIES (-1, 121.5)
Saint Bonaventure was painfully slow out of the blocks in its semifinal game with Rhode Island, falling behind big midway through the first half. The Bonnies lost the race to 20 points, 20-10 to the Rams, and have been edge in that spring to 20 points in three of their last four outings. That includes a 22-17 gap in their last matchup with Saint Louis in the season finale back on March 9. The Billikens have put in two of their best offensive efforts of the season in the A-10 tournament and they will start with plenty of energy Sunday.
PREDICTION: Saint Louis Race to 20
FIRST HALF BET
As mentioned, the Bonnies aren’t sprinting from the tip and have conserved their energy for strong second-half pushes in recent games. St. Bonaventure, which averages just 30.4 first-half points on the season, has played below that production in four of its last five games, amounting first-half scores of 27, 34, 22, 17, and 27 in that span. The Bonnies managed just 22 points at the break in that recent matchup with the Billikens and will be slow and steady to start Sunday’s final.
PREDICTION: Under St. Bonaventure 28.5 first-half team total
We hinted at this one in the above prediction, but the Bonnies have been a two-faced team in recent games, saving their best stuff for the final 20 minutes. St. Bonaventure averages 35.7 points in the second half over its last three games, including a 44-30 second-half beatdown of the Billikens back on March 9. They absolutely walked over Rhode Island in the second half of Saturday’s semifinal, outscoring the Rams 41-22 and limiting URI to 7-of-25 shooting in the final frame.
FULL GAME TOTAL
Saint Louis finished the regular season ranked among the worst shooting teams in the nation, sitting 318th in effective field goal percentage (47%) but have been a different team in Brooklyn. The Billikens shot over 48 percent from the field in the win over Davidson, including 8 for 17 from distance, and connected on 47.5 percent of their looks in their tournament opener versus Richmond.
And while the Billikens last two defensive efforts look impressive in the box score – allowing just 44 and 55 points – that has a lot more to do with poor shooting performances from Davidson and Dayton than lockdown defense from SLU. The Wildcats had plenty of open looks in Saturday’s semis but couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat, finishing 7 for 30 from beyond the arc.
The Bonnies are the premier Under bet in the country, sitting 9-23-1 Over/Under and staying below the total in eight straight. However, Bona has shown some flair on the offensive end of the floor – especially in second halves, as noted above. The Bonnies have been extremely balanced on offense, with four starters in double figures and the fifth with nine points in the win over Rhode Island.
With both “low scoring” schools playing beyond their offensive average, I see value with the Over Sunday.
PREDICTION: Over 121.5
FULL GAME SIDE
St. Bonaventure is one of the hottest teams in the country right now, stringing together three in a row and winning nine of its last 10 contests, posting a 7-3 ATS mark in those games. The Bonnies, known for their methodical pace and stingy interior defense, run a big lineup with taller stronger guards and elite shot blockers like Osun Osunniyi defending the paint.
Part of Saint Louis’ success is rebounding, ranked 14th in total boards and making up for poor shooting with plenty of second-chance buckets. It owned the glass versus Davidson, out-rebounding the Wildcats 41-26, including eight offensive rebounds, and is out-working A-10 tournament opponents on the boards 110-75 in its three postseason tilts, including 33 total offensive rebounds.
Unfortunately, for SLU, the Bonnies’ size and defense will force more perimeter shots from the Billikens, and after playing four games in four days, Saint Louis will show that wear and tear in the second half. I see St. Bonaventure breaking Saint Louis in the final 20 minutes, after what will be a very physical final at the Barclays Center.
PREDICTION: St. Bonaventure -1
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